The Orwellian-as-all-get-out practice is being conducted using “emotional surveillance technology” by both businesses in China and the country’s military, reports the South China Morning Post. The tech uses small wireless sensors embedded in employees’ hats that can monitor brainwaves. That brainwave data is then analyzed by AI to tell when an employee is tired, anxious, or even full of rage. One company using the brain-monitoring tech says profits have increased by $315 million since rolling it out way back in 2014. Other uses of the tech include monitoring drivers of trains to tell if they’ve fallen asleep or are at risk of doing so.
It’s important to note the technology cannot read people’s thoughts. Still, the ability to read someone’s emotions is just another way big data and AI are slowly taking away people’s privacy, and one has to worry just how far some authoritarian state could take the technology in the future. Might we one day have a state that monitors its citizens’ emotions after a speech by their leader to find out whether or not they agreed with the party? Or if the tech becomes widespread, might ads be served up to us one day based on our current mood? The possibilities are chilling.